Kazakhstan's largest offshore oil and gas development project, Kashagan, has moved forward in its plan to commercialise up to 1 billion cubic metres of its associated gas and thus enable oil production to grow.
Eni-led operator, the North Caspian Operating Company, said it has started construction of a 15-kilometre gas pipeline connector from its Bolashak oil processing facility to the site of the future Kashagan gas processing plant.
Despite the large distance from neighbour Russia, the plant will depend on a legacy pipeline, connecting to the Russian gas trunkline network, for gas shipments to potential customers, and also depend on Russian water supplies for its operations.
Construction of the new plant is managed by Kazakh state-owned gas transmission operator and producer Qazaqgaz, which last year took over the project from a privately held operator that ran into financing and project management issues, and then halted the project.
North Caspian Operating said that once 1 billion cubic metres of associated sour gas can be evacuated to the new plant, it will be in position to boost production at its offshore facilities in the Caspian Sea by about 25,000 barrels per day of oil.
Production at Kashagan is partially constrained by the gradually increasing share of associated gas in the flow of hydrocarbons to the surface, with the operator having to reinject produced gas into the reservoir.
The operator assured that the line pipe for the connector has been custom-made for transporting sour gas that is rich in highly corrosive and poisonous hydrogen sulphide. The pipe to be laid is compliant with international safety class standards that are used for the construction of similar gas pipelines, it added.
According to Qazaqgaz, start-up of the processing plant is now planned for 2025, with the operator seeing a delay in the pace of the project after discovering flaws in project design documentation for the facility, that had been prepared by its previous owner.
Last November, Qazaqgaz signed an agreement with Technip Energies to cooperate in project management, and research and development, with the French company also asked to support construction of the processing plant, according to Technip Energies.
Kazakh Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov wrote in a note to parliament members this past summer that sour gas processed at the facility and brought to market specifications, is slated to be transported via a legacy gas pipeline, known as Central Asia—Centre that runs from Turkmenistan via Kazakhstan to Russia.
According to the Smailov’s letter, quoted by Kazakh business news outlet Kapital, the Central Asia—Centre pipeline currently utilises just 45% of its nameplate capacity.
The new processing facility has already secured a vital connection to freshwater supplies that are required for its operations.
Earlier in September, Kazakh oil pipeline operator Kaztransoil said it had completed construction of a pipeline connection between the site of the facility and a regional trunkline that takes freshwater from a tributary of the Volga River, known as Kigach, near the Russian city of Astrakhan, and transports it to the Mangyshlak region of Kazakhstan.
In response to Upstream inquiries, neither Kaztransoil nor North Caspian Operating was able to clarify whether any alternate freshwater supplies are planned for the new processing facility.
Russian neighbours including Kazakhsta, have been under increasing pressure from the US and Europe for their role in helping Russia to circumvent the expanding list of international sanctions that were introduced in response to Moscow's 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, the US sanctioned several companies in Turkey and other countries for their role in channelling western-made dual-use goods — those civilian products that may be used for the military purposes — to Russia.